I’ve had a few messages recently asking for tips for taking kids on your own to a family festival and so I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned when taking Lily. We tend to go to festivals just the two of us, sometimes meeting friends, but often on our own.
Is it possible to take your kids to a festival on your own? Yes!
Is it challenging? It can be, but it is also super fun and I really do recommend it.
I’ve taken Lily to festivals on her own since she was about 3 years old and she is now 7, which I admit is easier now she is getting older, however there are still things I make sure I do to make our solo festival adventures a little smoother.
These tips may not work for everyone, and many can be used when there are others with you too, however I find I’m more aware of some of these when on my own.
1. Find out where to get help
This may be an obvious one, and equally as important as when you’re not on your own, but the first thing I do when arriving on site is to find out where the welfare tent is, lost children’s tent, security. By doing this, I know where to head if there is an incident – eg we had weather warnings one year and I was reassured knowing where welfare was as they were sending campers there for safety.
Lily also had an allergic reaction to something once, and knowing where first aid was when I was worrying for her really helped.
This one is my personal choice, but I like to camp in an open space near to a boundary or entrance, rather than amongst other campers. This helps to ensure if I need help in the night, I can easily reach the security who tend to be near entrances. It also makes it closer to take all your stuff!
2. Identify landmarks with the children
Again, this is easier now she is older and does depend on a child’s age and ability, but by making Lily familiar with a site, I hope that if she does get lost, she recognises places, as festival sites can be huge and overwhelming.
If they know where the lost children’s tent is, then that’s even better, but it can be hard to find as a small child in a large crowd on a huge festival site.
3. Help kids know who to speak to if they get lost
Security, welfare, stewards… they’re all safe options to speak to – yes, this is true if you have more than one of you to support, but when you’re on your own, there are less eyes on the kids.
Festivals often give wristbands for kids to put your number on in case they get lost too – you can also buy these in advance online.
4. Bring some walkie talkies
Walkie talkies are fantastic for festivals, where phone reception is not always great. This means that if your kid happens to get lost, you’re able to speak to them if they have a walkie talkie on them.
Thankfully we’ve never had to use them, but it means if Lily gets lost and the Lost Children’s tent can’t get through to my phone due to reception, they can help speak to us, or if she is close by then I’d be able to find her more easily.
5. Camping trailers/trolleys are awesome
When you’re on your own, you only have you to carry the stuff from the car to the campsite, so I find a trailer the easiest way. They’re also useful to carry all your stuff for the day onto the festival site – and for tired children!
We like to have an extra blanket in the trailer for cooler evenings and to cover our stuff if we need to leave it, eg for the toilets or on a ride. A blanket is also good for kids to sit on and play in one place while you put the tent up!
Some festivals also have a buggy service, often in exchange for charity donations or a fee, to help take you to/from the campsite/car park. It’s definitely an option to consider rather than struggling.
6. Figure out your toilet trips!
Toilets can be the biggest juggle when on your own. Some festivals have their own children’s toilets to make it easier for the little ones, but fitting you and your kid in a portaloo is not always easy.
Depending on the child’s age and abilities, the trailer is good to leave your kid in while you pop into the toilet, but when Lily was younger I pretty much had to awkwardly take her in with me and make her not touch anything!
My portable camping toilet has been amazing for the tent as I wouldn’t leave her in the tent at night by herself if I needed to wee – but it is also a good option if you really need to go to the toilet and can pop back in the daytime.
7. Set your routine
For me, it’s important to stick to our normal routine – it just works better for us, but if you want to stay out longer, then that’s totally up to you – just do you!
Yes, for us, the earlier return to the tent means that I miss the evening entertainment at the festival, but we tend to be one of the first on the festival site in the mornings and can do the rides and activities without queuing, while they are quieter – so it is a win for us!
The mornings for us are great too as the toilets are generally cleaner, the coffee and food stands are emptier and the whole site is great to explore without the crowds around.
If you want to stay up longer, some kids can sleep well in the trailers (though Lily always had FOMO so never slept in her one!) – just make sure they’re allowed on the site in the evenings as not all are allowed by the main stage.
We head back for around 7pm-ish and toast some marshmallows before bed 🙂 this routine just works for us!
8. Find quieter activities or chill out activities
Lily is quite an excitable child and the excitement of the festival absolutely blew her mind when she was younger, so I tended to take her back to the tent for an hour or so quiet time and give her a rest – disco naps are awesome!
Now she is a bit older, I find quieter activities such as arts and crafts, a sandpit or a games table, knowing she is having a bit of regulation time, and it gives me a chance to chill out too – I’ll grab a coffee or tea before hand then can have a moment to sit down and chill out too – a definite win-win, particularly when you’re on your own.
One of our favourite spots is a mud kitchen – Lily is occupied for hours and I can have a bit of mental time out… and a coffee!
If you’re after some proper me-time, many festivals have spas or massages which you can take advantage of alongside the festival childcare (see final point!)
9. Eat early or avoid peak times
Queues can build up at peak times at food retailers, so if we are eating on the festival site then we tend to avoid peak eating times and eat around 11.30am then late afternoon before the dinner rush.
We like to share a pizza or a jacket potato or something, which makes it cheaper and also means we don’t need to queue for food, as queuing with kids on your own isn’t always easy! I do make sure Lily has a couple of small toys or games in the bag in case we do have to queue, to keep her occupied.
We also bring our own food for as many meals as possible as well as reusable water bottles, which saves money, but also helps us avoid queueing for food/drinks too.
10. Don’t be afraid to use festival childcare
Whether you’re nervous about leaving your kids at a festival or have all the parent-guilt at leaving your child with someone else, many festivals have childcare and it’s more than OK to use them!
At Camp Bestival there is Freckles Childcare which offers a nanny service with fully-trained nannies, including 2-hour sessions throughout the day or drop-off sessions. You can even use them in the evening if you want to check out an act, while they stay with your child in the tent. They’re often booked up quickly too!
The first time I used a festival childcare service I had all the mum-guilt at doing so, but Lily had an absolutely fab time, enjoyed playing with other kids and seeing someone who wasn’t me, while I made the most of the time to put down the tent and get everything back to the car.
Festivals like Elderflower Fields often have drop-off kids’ activities too, such as an art camp or sports camp that is included in the ticket price – I try and book Lily in on the last day to get the tent down and the camping stuff back to the car, then we spend the rest of the day together enjoying the festival.
The above may sound quite overwhelming, but it’s really not. If you take anything away from this, it’s to just be prepared for anything. The most important thing to remember at a festival is to stay safe and ENJOY YOURSELVES! Book yourselves onto a workshop or activity together, dance the day away and just make those memories.
How you do festivals may be totally different to how other people do them, but that’s OK! Kids may interact differently to all the activities, vibes, crowds and noise, so just listen to your kids and go with the flow.
Enjoy yourselves and just do you 🙂